You’ll have to trust me. It’s more thrilling than it sounds.
One night, after making this terrifically simple Melissa Clark ginger-scallion chicken dish for dinner, I eyed the leftover hairy scallion butts, laying discarded near the cutting board. On a whim, I arranged them roots-down in a jelly jar with a little bit of water. By the next morning, they were happily back on their way, a tender, alive thing, stretching toward the light.
Since then, checking on my scallions has become my favorite daily activity, the way taking a walk to get a coffee or picking up the mail used to be. I grew up in Virginia, helping out in my mother’s garden, and I know that we can regrow most of our everyday food: potatoes, ginger, celery, even carrot tops. Usually, it’s not terribly helpful knowledge in my Brooklyn kitchen, with each precious foot of counter space already overcrowded and accounted for.
But there’s nothing like a viral pandemic to inspire resourcefulness, especially when food feels so expensive and each trip to the store is laden with anxiety and fear. The Covid-19 crisis is asking us to reconsider so many things: Our relationship to wellness, our priorities, our values. Everything suddenly feels precious, and nothing should be wasted — time, energy, even food scraps. Maximizing every resource we have feels productive and reassuring, when little else does. It’s free comfort, and we shouldn’t squander that, either.
The green of my second-generation scallions is fainter somehow, and they taste gentler, too. They’re easier on the palette and my stressed-out stomach. The milky shoots remind me of a line from the poem “Sorrow Is Not My Name,” by Ross Gay, that reads: “My color’s green. I’m spring.”
Spring, the season of renewal, is on hold. And for now, summer is too. Outside my home, there is little to no certainty. But my scallions? Each day, they rebound a little more, oblivious to anything else but growth.
Jenna Wortham is a staff writer for the NYT Magazine and co-host of “Still Processing.” She is the co-editor of the forthcoming visual anthology “Black Futures,” due out from One World in 2020.
Doodles by Shannon Lin and Jonathan Corum. Shannon is a digital news design fellow at The Times. Jonathan is the graphics editor for Science.